I’ve gotta be honest, I kind of didn’t want to like Supperland.
I mean, on one hand I hoped it was good because Charlotte needs more good restaurants and I had made our reservations for my wife’s birthday, a rare in-pandemic night out without the kids. I like when Southern food is done properly and with care and I have fond memories of church potlucks, something Supperland claims to draw reference from. I also hoped that the interior design and patio space would speak to a restaurant that would stick around and become part of the Plaza Midwood community.
But on the other hand, I’m someone who first moved to the Charlotte area in the mid 90s and spent a lot of time in Plaza Midwood. After graduating from UNCC I had my family dinner at Dish. I spent many summer evenings in line at Dairy Queen and at Common Market, and my bachelor party was shooting pool at Elizabeth Billiards. The first house my wife and I bought was about two miles down Central. My point is, I have memories of a lot of places in the neighborhood before I moved away for a few years and came back two years ago to a new Charlotte.
Opened recently in an old church in the heart of Plaza Midwood, Supperland is run by the same restaurateurs behind Crepe Cellar, Reigning Doughnuts, Growler’s, and Haberdish, and is built on a thematic mix of high-end steakhouses and Sunday potlucks.
It is a New Charlotte restaurant if there ever was one, combining chef-driven food and trendy interior design with high prices in the middle of a neighborhood that many people feel has been taken away from its homegrown residents.
Add in the fact that it’s in an old church, and it doesn’t get much more New Charlotte than that.
Let’s talk about those prices, a topic of discussion since Supperland opened. Yes, the prices are high, especially for Plaza Midwood. Yes, they really do charge $6 per shrimp, which seems like a particular misstep no matter how big the shrimps are. Yes, they do have a $75 grilled lobster, something I’ve certainly never seen at a church potluck and something I can’t imagine someone paying so much for so far from the North Atlantic. On the other hand, the restaurant group behind Supperland pays all its staff a living wage, and part of being the kind of city Charlotte wants to be is accepting higher prices in return for better pay for its workers. Another point in defense of the prices is that both the entrees and sides are large enough to be shared around the table. Roasted carrots for $12 or mac and cheese for $14 isn’t so bad when you can split the sides between three people. Our total bill of about $200 got us four drinks, two starters, an entree, three sides, and two desserts. That doesn’t feel like an outrageous price, and we had enough food to take two of the sides home along with the dessert.
As interesting as the restaurant design is, with its purple leather booths, church pews, and custom-painted plates, the food is the reason to keep coming back. Each dish we had, from the seven-layer salad to the wagyu pot roast, from the roasted carrots and the brussels to the ambrosia salad, tasted like the ideal version of that particular dish. You’re not going to experience the kind of creativity you might find at a similarly-priced restaurant like Bardo, but what you’ll get at Supperland is comforting food done really well.
You’ll get the best version of a traditional pot roast, or ambrosia salad, or charred carrots. It’s delicious, nostalgic, thoughtful food prepared with care and artistry.
To be sure, some of the menu feels unnecessary, specifically the two dishes using wagyu beef. The wagyu franks ‘n’ beans feels like something thrown in to align with the church potluck theme and since they couldn’t think of a way to dress up hot dogs and beans they just used wagyu, and pot roast is a dish that traditionally uses tougher meat and gets it tenderness from the cooking time. Maybe Supperland uses wagyu to shortcut that time requirement, but I don’t know what difference it really makes to use a type of beef so trendy in restaurants these days that the title is basically meaningless.
It sounds like I’m down on Supperland. I’m not. The food is delicious and as my wife and I talked about our experience there vs. other restaurants in Charlotte and which ones around town we could see succeeding in the larger cities that Charlotte wants to be like, we realized Supperland would be right near the top of our list of special-occasion restaurants. It’s certainly much, much better than some of the other very internet-popular restaurants that have opened here lately. We also hope to go back soon and spend an evening at the cocktail bar and patio behind the main building, something that could be a more weekly type of thing than a full dinner, especially at this restaurant’s price point.
It’s just that, like almost everything in Charlotte, these days, one can’t help but think about what the neighborhood Supperland sits in used to be.
Admittedly, Plaza Midwood has always been a sort of upper-middle-class white liberal neighborhood outside of its Central Avenue/Thomas St. commercial district, and that’s the kind of place Supperland is. It doesn’t quite have the feel of Myers Park wealth but you also won’t find a bunch of scuzzy hipsters smoking American Spirits like you used to on Central. I maintain that Plaza Midwood died when the Dairy Queen and Elizabeth Billiards closed; Supperland’s opening is a flag planted saying “yes, the old Plaza Midwood is gone. This is the new Charlotte.” The food is very, very good but if you’re of a certain age you’ll have thoughts about what is now missing.
You can find cheaper delicious southern food in Charlotte, and you can find more world-class creative food at this price point. But if you had someone coming for a visit and you wanted to go to a place that would show them all the conflict that comes along with Charlotte’s exploding growth, somewhere that will somehow highlight all at once Charlotte’s history as a religious southern town, its historical and growing food scene, and its future as a wealthy city full of young people making a lot of money, I can’t think of a better choice than Supperland.